Monday, 19 July 2010

Things most welcome

We have had a scorcher of a week with the temperatures in the 30s and high humidity levels. Adopting the Mediterranean pattern of working does not come easily though and we were both left drained despite drinking plenty of fluids. Mind you Ian assures me that his need to take time off in the middle of the day is nothing to do with the fact that he has just taken out a months subscription to Eurosport  to watch the Tour de France on his computer even though he usually revels in the heat. He does assure me the humidity has really got to him this time.

The plants in our polytunel haven't suffered from the heat though and you can see the progress over the last two months in our polytunnel from the photos but taming the rampant melons, the mega sideshooting tomatoes and the prolific cucumbers has been very challenging as working in the polytunnel has been like working in a sauna.

19th April they were still working on the polytunnel
29th May The plants are in there believe me. We had hoped
to have had plants started much earlier this year though.
9th June and the plants are just
beginning to take off but they have been
well watered by water leaking in to the
polytunnel or over watered as the case
13th June and the plants are now well established and the
over watering during storms sorted.
18th July The tomatoes under the fleece at the front are now
over 5ft tall the ones at the back are over 6ft tall. Even the
aubergines are beginning to take over at the front and the
bush tomatoes well! The fleece is for shading - I am not
climbing up the outside to paint on some shading paint.
18th July Our 6ft tall sweetcorn or maybe
they're taller but since I am
only 5ft tall what would I know!

A beautiful, misty, rainy day
The fresher temperatures of yesterday and today with the rain has been most welcome. It has certainly paid off to put straw around many of our plants to retain moisture in the soil in this dry-ish summer but water has still been a constant worry as we have needed to frequently water the plants in the polytunnel and sometimes outside too as the temperatures soared and the rain held off. The guys working on our barn have also been using the water for mixing concrete, so it was alarming to see the water levels drop in our pond as we extracted the water. The rain has  filled up the ponds nicely again fortunately and so we are safe for another couple of weeks of watering and the concrete is nearly all mixed which will help. It does mean though that we are not going to get the second pond lined just yet as once again it is too wet to deal with for at least another week but then again there is a possibility that we won't have to. A friend of ours related that he and his father had dug a pond and initially the water level kept dropping away but eventually it stopped draining and started retaining the water as the silt worked its way into the gaps and plugged it. That might explain why our first pond suddenly started holding water much better despite our recent high temperatures as the silt load from the last lot of rain was really high. Now we just need the silt to block up the second pond and we will be very happy.

A very delicate looking snail, and this was okay it wasn't
on my cabbages
We don't often get people to send things from the UK as we manage quite well with what is available here in Latvia but one thing we have desperately needed is insect repellent. Normally it is readily available but just lately they have been running out due to the epidemics of first mosquitoes and now horse flies. I am also not really sure what is in the repellents as I think most of them contain DEET which I hate using and is not really supposed to be that good for you, so I asked my Mum to send some Avon SoSoft and some citronella based insect repellents. Avon SoSoft is used by the forestry guys up in Scotland to deter midges and is supposed to be highly effective so thought I would give it a go here. I have used it while gardening and it seems to confuse the horse flies but I am not sure if it puts them off completely if they are determined and I am not sure if the number of horse flies has now gone down or not so not too convinced yet if it is really working but I shall continue trialling it and see what happens. My Mum also sent me a Dutch hoe which I have not seen outside the UK. There are all sorts of other hoes but not this sort, the Latvians use a stirrup hoe that you can push and pull (didn't know there were so many types of hoe until I was looking them up, you can see how many here) but I wanted a hoe that I was familiar with and knew how to use, funny the things we get used to! Other essential items included some more mossie proof tops for Ian, a very early birthday present but he's not complaining.

The new door in the Soviet style hallway.
Progress this week means we now have a nice new door to our other apartment, I forgot to take a before picture, sorry! But you can see the new door. At least we shouldn't have a howling gale of cold air coming in through it in the winter, nice at this time of the year but not when it is - 29C outside. It is also a proper outside door and not really an interior door with a lock on like the last one. Shame there has not been any more progress inside unless you count the fact that I washed the floors to get rid of the plaster dust, our friend is too busy on his farm at the moment. Doh! (To quote a famous cartoon character)

A close up of a male broad-bodied  chaser dragonfly

There has been progress on the barn, but the poor guys are up with the lark to work, go home for lunch and don't come back until later on in the early evening due to the heat. It would not be my idea of fun but at least they are sticking with it and working which is helpful. They have certainly not had the weather that has been kind to them, from the rain as soon as they started sinking holes turning the area into a swimming pool and the rain storms we have had in between - great for our gardens but not for the builders, the ground just gets dry enough for them to work and then it pours - and now the heat which has been too hot for the concrete. The next week should be good though as they are forecasting temperatures in the mid 20s and not much in the way of rain or thunderstorms.

Viper's Bugloss - what a glorious name
As you may well know Latvia is in the middle of an economic crisis, in a crisis there are things that should be cut in order to balance budgets and there are some things which should never be touched as it will be detrimental to the future too. Libraries are one of those things which are often under pressure when money is tight and yet the future generations need the knowledge they contain to help themselves build for the future and so I applaud the efforts of the Latvians to continue building their library and with it build a vast storehouse of knowledge. Of course there needs to be some realism in the construction and it most certainly needs to have the finances checked and rechecked to ensure every penny, sorry santim, spent is spent on the library and not lining someone's pocket but a storehouse for the future is a good thing to build when times are hard. This library is also becoming a beacon of hope that the white knight of legend who battled the black knight and plunged into the Daugava will one day rise again bringing with him the Castle of light, the library has become known as the Castle of light, as light is synonymous with knowledge, energy and awareness. If building of the library in the face of adversity brings hope to the nation then it will be money well spent.

A view from outside our other flat towards the allotments
Really felt a change of season this week as if the year had turned. I know in the UK the summer has barely started as the schools are only just finishing but for many of the European countries the schools have been on holiday (vacation) for a while now. There was something about the noise in the trees and the quality of the air that whispers that the summer is turning and it is now late summer and yet it doesn't seem that long ago since we were planting everything up. Something in my spirit feels the turn too and I feel it is time to be ready for harvest time. I am not talking about the great harvest that some people are waiting for but the reaping of things we have sown, sparse though that has been as we are still in the preparing the ground stage. Our land is showing us that there is much to prepare to be ready for an increase in production but to be honest there is not much point in sowing huge amounts now until our water situation is sorted, the preparation means that we will be able to cope with what grows up. Poor preparation now would mean we could lose everything. As it is in the physical so I think it will be in the spiritual. In many ways this year is a year for collecting seeds from the small amount we have sown, they will then be re-sown next year to produce a bigger harvest. Some of the decisions and choices we make this year will shape what grows in years to come, obvious really but it is not a time to do this flippantly but needs to be done with a certain amount of care and consideration, not that we can't experiment too.

Next week we are hoping to be able to make an exciting announcement, so do check back! (Nothing like leaving a blog on a cliff hanger heh!)


  1. Great garden pictures, as usual!

  2. Thank you, Liz. Not quite as stunning as Colorado pictures but pretty scenery anyway.

  3. Joanna,

    How is our greenhouse doing now that it is four years later?

    We're looking at doing a larger greenhouse this summer so I'm curious as to how other people's have fared over the years.

    in Vermont

  4. Oops. Forgot to check the notify me box.

    1. Unfortunately this design did not last the 1 metre of snow that we had that year, while we were away. This design needs some cross ties near the top at least. This link was our second attempt and this is still standing ( We hardly had any snow this year but the winters of 2011/2012 and 2012/2013 were snowy. If you go backwards from this post you can see the building stages. It feels a much more rigid construction


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